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The distinction between self sacrifice and true service

The distinction between self sacrifice and true service

Do you have a history of ‘helper syndrome’? I am using this term to replace more graphic but less palatable terms, like sacrificial lamb, martyr, saint or rescuer.

As I see it, the roots of this syndrome are a mixture of nature and nurture.

Some of us learned to get praise, attention and feelings of significance through being helpful and useful in environments where saying no carried negative consequences that we feared.

Fast forward to adult life and we discover that we are no longer rewarded with gold stars.

Instead, ‘Helper Syndrome’ leads to:

  • Being used by others, causing the sufferer to feel valued for the wrong things, misunderstood and underappreciated.
  • Experiences of invalidation from others, if they wanted attention or approval but, not advice or solutions.
  • Frustration, overload, overwhelm and even burnout
  • Lack of clarity about who and what we are designed to serve

 

At some point in my journey as a chronic sufferer, I began to appreciate the fine difference between self-sacrifice and service. Apparently, due my Pisces sun (the self sacrificing part) and my Virgo ascendant (the service part), I’m wired to learn the difference, including the shadow and the light of such qualities.

While there is a time and a place for self sacrifice in the transformative crucible of spiritual practice, success in the so-called real world requires us to be clear with our boundaries and personal limitations. This puts us in the realm of service.

Self-sacrifice is a problem in the real world, other than in special circumstances, such as emergencies or after giving birth to a baby. However, in those special circumstances we are given the resources we need through raised hormone levels, irrespective of nature and nurture considerations.

The transformation of self-sacrifice to service requires self-awareness, including conscious direction of energies through committing only to whom and to what we feel genuinely called, and designed, to serve.

Over the last couple of years, I have gained enormous clarity around who and what I am best suited to serve, as a result of my journey with a process called Tribal Marketing.

But, just a few years ago, I was beyond confused about what I should be offering – and to whom. I even trained as an Independent Funeral and Wedding Celebrant, planning to leave the coaching and training worlds altogether.

I liked the work but knew that my heart and soul lie in transformational practice and coaching. I’m not ready to retire. I don’t believe that I’m meant to. Transformational work is in my blood. It’s where I belong and where I stand.

Are you as stuck as I was a few years ago?  Click here to learn more about True Significance and Tribal Marketing.

Can men be feminists?

Can men be feminists?

A few days ago, a male friend asked my opinion on this topic. Apparently, he’d had a conversation with a woman who claimed that to be feminist, you must be female.

I was curious. I Googled ‘can men be feminists’ to see what was being said, if anything.

It turns out that quite a lot has been said in recent years. Heated stuff in fact.

A number of journalists and other professional experts have had their say. And a number argue that men can’t be feminist. (References are at the end of the article.)

Hmmm…..

That got me thinking.

I decided that such arguments are based on a limited definition of the word feminist. I consulted the dictionary.

Both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries define feminism and feminist in terms of equal rights for women and men.

To me, that definition is very limited.

The battle for equal rights has been about equality within a patriarchal system, which by definition elevates men and masculine values above women and feminine values.

There have been centuries of suppression of Feminine teachings. I am using a capital ‘F’ to differentiate between feminine, pertaining to females, and the gender free Feminine.

The Feminine Wound is a cocktail of violation and invalidation that affects both women and men, albeit in differing ways.

Until the last couple of generations, women’s roles and entitlements have been restricted. Women were admired for their more ‘yin’ qualities. Meanwhile, such qualities expressed by men were often considered to be weak.

A natural law of energy, according to the Tao, is that any extreme will transform to its opposite. Therefore, it is not surprising that there has been a compensating shift as Western women, in the interests of equality, have been educated and trained to emphasise masculine or ‘yang’ qualities. Meanwhile, men have been encouraged to get in touch with their more feminine sides.

To be fair, a re-balance has been needed. But a swing from one extreme to the other is not the answer.

Patriarchy has promoted shadow or wounded forms of both masculine and feminine.

The ‘glass ceiling’ of patriarchy is that it does not allow for the collective appearance of healed Masculine and Feminine energies to emerge.

In myth and story, not tainted by a patriarchal re-write, the Divine Feminine is the force that transforms wounded forms of masculine and feminine.

The Divine Masculine is accessed through the grace of initiation to the Feminine.

Therefore, shouldn’t true Feminism, of the type that both men and women can and should support, advocate the breaking of this patriarchal ‘glass ceiling’?

A capital ‘F’ Feminist might be a person who works for a new paradigm, where equal rights would be unquestioned, where Feminine values are honoured and where there is recognition, understanding and valuing of difference.

This must involve the healing of the wounded feminine in both women and men. The Feminine does not emasculate men and make them feminine. Quite the opposite.

The motivation for men to be Feminist is 1) to support the women who are moving out of victimization and into empowerment, through personal healing and transformation,  2) to make a bid for their own healing at the same time, and 3) to make a stand against the insane levels of destruction/violation/abuse of all forms of life on this planet.

One hundred years ago, Emmeline Pankhurst stated (apparently) ‘We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half.’

What do you think?

Are relationships that have ended still sabotaging your happiness?

Are relationships that have ended still sabotaging your happiness?

In recent conversations, I’ve been very aware of 1) deep human longing to share love with another and 2) lack of understanding that relational problems have their source in inner energetic patterns.

On the surface may be behaviours that cause separation rather than connection. Underneath self protective behaviours are the energetic residue of past traumatic experiences.

The truth is that when sabotaging patterns remain unresolved, they will repeat with another person, albeit in a slightly different way.

Let’s consider three situations, that are quite common, in my experience.

1- A woman who is still so hurt by a betrayal that led to divorce that she doesn’t think she can trust anyone again. The marriage ended 10 years ago and she hasn’t dated since.

2-  A woman who remains in a long term relationship that appears to others to be good. But the difficult dynamics, not seen on social occasions by others, are destroying her soul and her sanity.

3- A woman who is in a relationship that seems more healthy and promising than those in the past. As she has relaxed into the relationship and found trust in her partner, she is surprised to discover something in herself that limits a deepening into what she intuits to be her full sexual potential.

I wish the same for my clients as I do for myself – to be a fully expressed human being. This often requires courage to move beyond a comfort zone, followed by dedication to a transformational process.

Transformation is more easily accomplished with a specific type of support that includes: confidence in your ability to grow, holding at your growing edge and the objective vision to guide you forward.

Here are the indications that coaching might help you.

  • if you know you are caught defensive/self protective strategies that have become habitual
  • if you can’t move forward because of the lack of completion of a previous relationship
  • you keep attracting people and situations that deplete your energy

Difficult dynamics make sense when considered from an energetic point of view. A solution awaits – Relational Mastery.

 

What women aged over 35 think of power

What women aged over 35 think of power

A very interesting piece of research on women and power was published by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Melinda Marshall of the Center for Talent Innovation in 2015.

They surveyed professional women, between the ages of 35 and 50, in the US, the UK and Germany to find out what they wanted.

It was discovered that they want they same things that professional men want.

  • to feel in control of their career
  • to have their work recognised
  • to find meaning and purpose through their work
  • to be able to empower others
  • to have financial security

The difference that was found between women and men is this. Men in this age group sustain their interest in the importance of power and seek it. Women lose their interest in power, as they get older.

The report continued with recommendations for employers on how to encourage and retain talented women. They quote the following data from another US study.

Women without Power

Ability to flourish    18%

Ability to excel       70%

Feeling purpose      26%

Feeling empowered 14%

Contrast this with –

Women with Power

Ability to flourish    58%

Ability to excel       87%

Feeling purpose      63%

Feeling empowered 61%

Here the word power means ‘powerful position’.

I think the figures are on the low side even for women with the power of position, excepting the opportunity to excel. Those figures mean that 42% of women in powerful positions do not feel that they are flourishing. 47% do not find meaning and purpose through their work. 49% neither feel empowered nor feel they have the opportunity to empower others.

No wonder, in the UK, women leaders are the fastest growing segment of self employed entrepreneurs (reported by Jean Martin in the Guardian, May 2015).

The biggest drop out of women from the corporate world comes at the mid career point.

While it might be easy to assume that this is for work/life balance while raising children, this may not be the full story.

Apparently, a whopping 38% of American women, 39% of British women and 41% of German women aged 35-50 do not have children.

Do you think this could mean that as many women drop out due to disillusionment, as due to wanting better work/life balance?

In my experience:

People opt out when they believe their current circumstances won’t change.

People opt out when they are fed up with the feeling of hitting their head against a brick wall.

People opt out when the environment that they are in is not conducive to their growth or in alignment with their values.

In the 1980’s (yes I was in the workforce then and can speak from personal experience) women’s empowerment was all about breaking the ‘glass ceiling’. And some women succeeded.

Is it possible that the new wave of women leaders are not as interested in proving themselves within male dominated environments?

Just maybe they don’t lose their interest in power. Maybe they lose their interest in the forms of power that prevail!

If so, by opting out they are saying no to something that doesn’t work for them and yes to something that could.

It makes no sense that women would lose their interest in power as they get older, given that wisdom traditions the world over consider the menopausal transition as being a passage to power for women.

Is it possible that women that ‘drop out’ are really ‘dropping’ into tune with their innate feminine power? 

It interests me that women may be opting out in their peri-menopausal and menopausal years driven unconsciously by biological impulses.

If you are one of those women, I can help you to reframe the whole topic of power – in order to step into your most powerful and significant expression yet.

The difference between female, feminine and Feminine

The difference between female, feminine and Feminine

I’ve been dialoguing about the explosion of interest in Feminine leadership with the wise women that I know.

We agree that women are awakening and claiming power – spiritual, sexual, financial and heartfelt, hard earned wisdom.

But is female leadership the same as Feminine leadership?

I personally think there is a distinction to be made.

As interest in this topic increases more people use the terms ‘feminine leadership’ and ‘feminine power’ in their blogs and business offerings. The distinction between female, relating to gender, and Feminine, which is non gender specific, becomes important.

A respected leader, whether male or female, is likely to be able to harness both Masculine and Feminine qualities as appropriate to a situation.

Having said that, male and female bodies and brains are wired differently. It does make sense that women, by and large, will have greater access to certain qualities and men to others. But, women must take more than their gender into leadership positions.

Sadly, we are most familiar with stories of abuse of power in leadership. Female leaders are not immune.

My personal view is that a call for Feminine leadership is a response to abuses of power. For me, Feminine leadership implies a change to the patriarchal ‘power over’ paradigm.

Feminine leadership might be framed around an honouring of Feminine values, which include the honouring of women, the arts, the earth and all forms of life on it.

The importance of inner work for leaders is a newly emerging theme. The approach, which might emerge, to the benefit of both women and men, is neither patriarchal ego/male oriented nor matriarchal ego/female oriented.

Initiations to the Feminine are not new – neither for women nor for men.

Joseph Campbell identified ‘The Meeting with the Goddess’ as a key transformational stage on his model of the human journey, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949.

Often, Hero’s Journey is interpreted as being a man’s journey. But, there is another interpretation that deserves consideration. The Hero is a metaphorical term. When the Hero meets the goddess, he is changed in some way. He surrenders, stops fighting and starts to serve and support her.

There is deep longing in both women and men to meet the Feminine.

Food for thought:

  1. ‘The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.’ Mohadesa Najumi
  2.  The Feminine is the transformational aspect of Consciousness, according to tantric wisdom.
  3. It was at the Vancouver Peace Summit, in 2009, that the Dalai Lama made the statement that many women’s initiatives now quote. He gave the opinion that ‘the world will be saved by the Western women.’

To take up this call for action and be at the leading edge of transformation is a huge responsibility that will require consciousness, integrity and preparation.

The meaning of life vs. the purpose of life

The meaning of life vs. the purpose of life

‘The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it.’

 

You may have seen this quote about the meaning of life on social media. Most often it is attributed to Picasso, although I understand the source is debatable.

But the sentiment is simple. And as a guide for life, it is profound (in my opinion).

For most of us, this gift is revealed and honed over the course of life.

The process of revelation can be likened to a dance between the questing and the giving.

As Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with A Thousand Faces puts it, the call is to become a Master of the Two Worlds.

As I see it this journey of mastery is actually about both mystery (the feminine aspect of this accomplishment)  and mastery (the masculine aspect.) The mystery prompts the questing. Mastery prompts the giving.

Mastering the two worlds requires attention to polarities.

Too much emphasis on mystery and you may frustrate your purpose. Too much emphasis on mastery and you may lose touch with life’s meaning.

 

‘Me too’ and the transformation of patriarchy

‘Me too’ and the transformation of patriarchy

The line has been drawn.

The fire has been lit and is now raging.

The women’s march. The ‘me too’ movement. President Trump. Harvey Weinstein. Michael Fallon and others.

Sexual manipulation by those in positions of power is unacceptable.

 The first step in any transformation is to bring what is hidden, denied or avoided into the open.
 
Thanks to social media, secrecy has become difficult.
 
A behaviour that has been normalized in the past is no longer acceptable.
 
That much is clear.
 
We also know that the repression of ‘carnal desires’ doesn’t work.  Sanctions don’t work. 
 
There is one solution that is genuinely transformative. 
 
That solution amounts to a transformation of the patriarchal paradigm in which such behaviours have been normalised.
 
The world seems to be struggling with what I would call right relationship between Masculine and Feminine right now.

In the current patriarchal paradigm, this is often made out to be a gender issue. But, patriarchy limits the potential of men just as much as it does women.

Patriarchy has done its best to de-power the Feminine. Men have an inner feminine aspect. The growth and development of that aspect has clearly been stunted and distorted in those that manipulate, objectify and marginalise women.

We’ve been presented with an authoritive, abusive, ‘power over’ framework.

Men, as well as women, have been denied knowledge of the true roles of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine. 

Some of you will know that I have an ongoing and deep interest in the practices of the Indian traditions of Kashmir Shaivism and Sri Vidya.
 
What I love most about these traditions is that the metaphor and art are illustrations of right relationship between Masculine and Feminine.
 
Yes, much of the imagery is erotic. But it’s not meant to be interpreted through the lens of carnal desire. 
 
The Feminine Herself is the transformative force. She is inter-dependent with the Divine Masculine.

She is the expression of His power! He is the necessary containing and supportive force to Her expression. Her power lacks direction without this Masculine function.

Elevated from carnal knowledge to divine wisdom these images speak of the potential of every man and woman.

The Masculine and Feminine are energetic principles. When the Feminine is suppressed, the Divine Masculine is inaccessible too.
  

The ‘me too’ movement is bringing what has been hidden out into the open. This is just the first step in a healing process that if for the benefit of both sexes.

Status and success vs. significance

Status and success vs. significance

Recently, Ive been contemplating status and success vs significance.

That bird in the photo… I doubt that he or she contemplates success. But a bird carries significance. It has an important role to play in the balance of nature.

And it plays its role well. A bird is always true to its bird nature.

But, humans are different.

Add cultural conditioning and most of us are out of sync with our true nature and natural energy balance.

Success and status permeate our cultural conditioning.

Have you noticed the different language used for success vs. significance? People chase or attain success. They seek significance or make a significant contribution.

Early in life, success and significance get confused. Chasing success often hides an unconscious search for significance.

The mistaken belief is that success will bring validation from others – and therefore status. This belief is a poor substitute for the genuine feeling and knowing of significance.

It is not uncommon to hear stories of successful but unhappy and unfulfilled people. Unconscious searching for significance, via success, has an enormous trap.

When there is a high need for external validation, a person is more likely to sacrifice their personal values and integrity in order to maintain the status quo. In other words they end up being valued for the wrong things. I confess to falling into this trap – more than once.

What may begin in childhood, in order to stay safe and to belong, has a nasty habit of continuing into adulthood, with disastrous consequences. Toxic relationships. Burnout. Poor choices that undermine self respect.

But, personal crises can serve as an initiation to the true journey, hinted at in myth, stories and parables through the ages. Mapped out for us all by Joseph Campbell in the 20th century. He called it the Hero’s Journey.

We are unwittingly captivated by the potential of this journey, which is invisibly wired into us. Many of our most loved films capitalise on this by basing their plots on the Hero’s Journey model. (Applies for heroine’s too.)

As a transformational coach, I use this model with my clients, supporting them on their lifetime adventure to realise their true nature, from which can flower more effective expression of their unique gifts through work and in relationships..

You could say that the success of this journey is the discovery of True Significance.

True Significance does not come from external sources and especially, it does not come from self sacrifice. It comes from deep knowing and being faithful to a sense of purpose. And that journey is lifelong.

Becoming a stabilising force in the midst of chaos

Becoming a stabilising force in the midst of chaos

Autumn is such a potent season for those who are interested in personal and collective awakening and transformation.

This year, the gentle lessons we receive from observing the changing autumn leaves, are juxtaposed by evidence of the devastating power of nature in many parts of the world. The world has been shaking – literally – as hurricanes cause devastation in the Caribbean and the United States, an earthquake causes further deaths and damage in Mexico City and Asia experiences its worst monsoon flooding in years. In the southern hemisphere, there are spring bush fires in Australia and a volcano threatening eruption in Bali.

No wonder some are speaking of an apocalypse. (In fact, some say that will happen next week. Google it!)

The apocalypse theory is based on biblical information. Meanwhile, ancient Vedic teachings speak of a long period of destruction, hardship and decay of morality known as the Kali Yuga. The bad news is that the Earth is just 5000 years into this long cycle, said to last a few hundred thousand years!

But, there is a silver lining to this cloud…..

The Kali Yuga is considered to be the easiest age in which to awaken. Why? The transformational energies that hold the power of dissolution also hold the power to upgrade consciousness. It is said that a personal transformation that would take many lifetimes in more settled ages can be achieved in just a few decades in the Kali Yuga.

Here is the motivation to maintain commitment to whatever type of transformational work you do. And, here is the inspiration to step onto ‘the path’ if you have not yet developed a transformational practice.

The metaphor of the calm ‘eye’ at the centre of the hurricane prompts consideration of how we might become a stabilising force in the midst of chaos.

Applying this metaphor to ‘human play’ on the world stage, we have plenty of examples of ‘hurricane forces’. Terrorist attacks. Surprise election results that change the political landscape. Volatile leaders. Technically bankrupt countries. Greedy businesses that destroy the environment and avoid taxes.

The world is our mirror. In the face of devastating tragedy and suffering it is easy to feel impotent. Yes, we can send money to the causes that stir our hearts. We can turn our work towards the changes we would most like to see. But, for the broadest transformational impact, individually and collectively, inner work must accompany outer work.

I would define a transformational practitioner as someone who has learned to value life challenges because of the opportunity they bring to further personal growth and possible collective evolution.

Practitioners are needed. Scientific research confirms what many practitioners have experienced. Intentional prayer and meditation creates an energetic impact. Groups of practitioners magnify that impact.

Sustaining the calm ‘eye’ beyond a yoga mat or meditation cushion is achieved as a result of transforming inner emotional reactivity, including parts of the personality that take on the role of terrorist, dictator, destroyer or protector in the psyche. These are just some of the parts that might show up strongly when you feel challenged by life.

What better time to start, resume or create a new intent for practice and personal development than during autumn, as the leaves turn and we begin the season of ‘new year’ celebrations in the dark half of the year.

Personal ‘eclipses’ help you to stay on purpose

Personal ‘eclipses’ help you to stay on purpose

The American eclipse was big news last month.  My topic this month is what it means to experience a personal eclipse. 

A personal eclipse is a sudden change of direction, perhaps seemingly forced upon us or perhaps following an inner change of heart. The path we were on ‘gets eclipsed’ as a result.

In my experience, this feeling of something being eclipsed, while disorienting, is usually an indication that something in life needs to be reconsidered.

What you may not know about me is that 3 years ago I trained to be a wedding and funeral celebrant.

By chance, the first 2 funerals I conducted were for people of my own age. Thankfully, also by chance, so was the first wedding!

Of course, this made me think about my own life and what was important to me. And I realised, that while I enjoyed being a Celebrant and being of service to others in marking a rite of passage, I did not want to make such work into a full time occupation. It didn’t give me the same feeling of being ‘on purpose’ that I was lucky to experience when working as a coach and consultant earlier in my career.

I realised that I was making choices based on what made sense, given age and skills set. But, my deepest interests were hidden under limiting beliefs, such as ‘I’m too old’ or ‘it’s too late’ or ‘I haven’t got the resources’ for that type of business offering again.

Limiting thoughts and feelings are much easier to address once acknowledged. Since I’ve retrained as an Awakening Coach, and shifted the personal obstacles in the process, I feel ‘on purpose’ again.

For most people that feeling of being ‘on purpose’ makes a huge difference and is needed at every age and life stage.

If you have been experiencing a personal eclipse (which may be associated with the celestial one) ask yourself what might be needed for you to feel on purpose. And if you are in the middle of a life transition, as I was, it’s ok to consider a few options. But, please look carefully at your limiting points of view before deciding to believe them!